The best monolingual French dictionary app: Dictionnaire français by Farlex

Despite what you might expect: linguists hate dictionaries. Here’s why.

Despite what you might expect: linguists hate dictionaries.  They’re the bane of our existence, really–these things that Linguistics 101 students appeal to in defense of the crap explanations of how language works that they learnt in some grade school “English” class.  Here’s a list of problems with dictionary definitions alone from a draft of a paper of mine:

Some problems with definitions in dictionaries. Picture source: draft of a paper by me.

Dictionaries have more problems than just their definitions.  See here for a post on some of them.  It includes links to many other pieces on the topic, including an interview with the amazing Deborah Cameron.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t own and use them, though–a lot of them.  In fact, I have lots of different kinds of dictionaries.  One of the basic distinctions between kinds of dictionaries that you’re likely to be interested in if you’re reading a blog like this one is that between monolingual and bilingual dictionaries.

monolingual dictionary gives the meanings of words in some language by providing definitions in that language itself.  As Wikipedia puts it: The word dictionary (unqualified) is usually understood to refer to a general purpose monolingual dictionary.[4]

At some point in your study of a language, you need a monolingual dictionary of that language.  English-French/French-English dictionaries will get you a long way, and often they suffice, but sometimes you really do need a monolingual dictionary of whatever language it is that you’re interested in.  (Case in point: recently I was trying to figure out the distinctions between some words referring to light—chatoyer, scintiller, briller, stuff like that.  Finding the English translations didn’t really help, because some of those can be translated by the same words in English, and I couldn’t swear that I can completely differentiate between the words in English, either.  As a point of reference: English is my native language, and I scored in the top 1 percentile on the vocabulary portion of the GRE.  I had to go to a monolingual French dictionary to find out that chatoyer necessarily involves reflection, scintiller necessarily involves intermittence, etc.  With those aspects of the definitions in hand, I could go look at actual examples of usage, and see what kinds of things can be the subjects of those verbs–for example, scintiller is often used with stars or to describe the night sky.)

I’m a huge technoskeptic.  Not despite the fact that I work in technology, but because I work in technology, I never expect anything to work.  The smartphone, though–that’s something that was immediately obviously a good idea.  Indeed, my phone is the thing that makes my life of flying from continent to continent possible.  For example, when I went to France for the first time, I started packing my suitcase and immediately ran into a problem: 50% of my luggage was going to be taken up by books.  Smartphone to the rescue: with a Kindle app, I can buy new things to read as I need them.  Other apps let me download maps, manage my packing lists, write emails, etc.  One of them has also solved my problem of needing to have a monolingual French dictionary once in a while.  I tried six of them; the best was Dictionnaire français, by Farlex.  The review that I wrote for it sums up its plusses:



I’ll give you some specifics now, focussing especially on aspects of the search functionality.  As I suggested in the review, one of the real strengths of this dictionary is the flexibility of its search options.  You can do a “simple” search (recherche simple): just type in the word that you’re looking for.

img_9821Often, though, you want to be able to look for words that fit some pattern. For example, you might want all words that start with some string of characters, or all words that end with some string of characters. The Farlex dictionary lets you do that with the Commence par (“starts with”) and Finit par (“ends with”) searches.

You might also want to be able to search for words with some particular pattern, irrespective of where that pattern is in the word. For example, I have a lot of trouble remembering how to pronounce ouille, so I wanted to find a bunch of examples of it. Farlex lets you do this with what it calls métacaractères. (Computational linguists call these wildcards.) To find words with any number of characters, followed by ouille, followed by any number of characters, I did this search, and got these results:

“Métacaractère” (wildcard) search for all words containing “ouille”.  Picture source: screen shot from my phone.

(In Farlex’s métacaractère “language,” the question mark (?) means “any single character,” and an asterisk (*) means “any number of characters.” To linguists and computer scientists, this kind of “language” is called a regular language, and these kinds of expressions are called regular expressions.  In a corpus linguistics class, I’ll typically spend about a week teaching them, as they are super-useful in language technology.)

One feature of the Farlex app that I really appreciate is that it stores your recent searches.  It’s not uncommon for me to look up a word, forget what it meant, and then need to look it up again.  The fact that recent searches are saved lets me go back to those words without having to type them again.  Also, if I want to review recent vocabulary items that I’ve learnt, I can just go back to this list.


Another nice feature of the app is that it aggregates definitions from multiple sources.  These range from a very recent Larousse to dictionaries going back to the 1700s.  In fact, lying about my house I have dictionaries of English from a variety of time periods, ranging from a very recent American Heritage (good for usage statistics) to a mid-20th-century Webster’s (very useful when reading American literature from the first half of the 20th century) to an Oxford English Dictionary that I mostly use for Shakespeare (it has all known definitions of a word, ever, going back to the earliest ones observed).  I like to read Molière in French, so sometimes the definitions from the old Littré are exactly what I need. Here are some of the multiple definitions of appétence, a word that I ran into this morning.

So: if you’re looking for a monolingual French dictionary that can live comfortably on your phone, this is probably your baby.  Let’s face it–if you’ve lived in Paris for any amount of time and you don’t have a hell of a lot more money than I do, you’re used to living in tiny spaces….

Conflict of interest statement: I don’t have any conflicts of interest here.  Farlex doesn’t pay me to write stuff like this–in fact, after I took the screen shots for this post, I paid them for the ad-free version of the app.  This is the case with everything that I review on this blog.

The question your grand-kids are going to ask you

We’re going to get past this–America always does. And someday, your grand-kids are going to ask you: what did you do during the Trump administration?

The Croix de Lorraine, symbol of the French Resistance during World War II. Picture source:
I went to a “language exchange” the other night.  7 minutes in one language, 7 minutes in the other, and then you change to someone new.  It works out well–you speak with a pretty random cross-section of people, you get to try your hand at understanding lots of dialects, ages, and speech rates, and usually you learn something.  Hopefully they do, too.

With one of my conversation partners, we started in English.  “Since we’re speaking English, I’m going to ask you all of the questions that an American would ask you, but a French person wouldn’t–where you’re from, what your job is…”

“Actually, French people ask each other those kinds of questions when they meet, too,” he replied.  ” What we don’t ask each other about is families–you don’t talk about family with someone you don’t know well.”

Indeed, the French are, in general, far slower to talk about family than Americans are.  And there’s one question that, I think more than any other, you don’t ask a French person: what did your family do during the war?  If they want you to know, they’ll tell you.  Uncle Jean-Paul was a fighter in the Resistance?  It’ll get worked into the conversation. Mom got arrested by the Gestapo while she was pregnant with your big sister?  It’ll come up without you asking.  (I’ll tell you mine: one of my uncles was in the Resistance.  According to another uncle’s autobiography, he was executed by the Germans, along with a bunch of his buddies.  The uncle who survived to write an autobiography was in the Army, apparently mostly spending his time driving trucks and teaching boxing to the son of an Army officer who thought his kid was a bit effeminate and wanted him toughened up a bit.)  Otherwise: don’t ask.  Plenty of French resisted the Nazis, and plenty of those, like my uncle, paid with their lives.  Others collaborated–the reason that the French government is not allowed to collect most demographic information today is that when the Germans told the Parisian police to go round up the Jews, they had no trouble finding them, because everyone’s religion was recorded in the local records.  (Altogether, French people sent around 70,000 French Jewish fellow citizens to the death camps.  (Wikipedia says 78,853.)  Under 1,000 came back.)  Most people just ate Jerusalem artichokes and rutabaga (cattle fodder otherwise) and tried to stay alive.

French Resistance message: “To obey is to betray. To disobey is to serve.” Picture source:
The reason I bring this up: America is in a world of shit right now.  But, we’re not going to be in this particular world of shit forever.  The hallucinatory world that Trump has brought us will end–eventually, America always rights itself.  As a nation, we’ve overcome slavery, overcome institutionalized racism, overcome extermination of Native Americans and then of their languages, overcome prejudice against Jews, prejudice against Catholics, and prejudice against Mormons.  Some day we’re going to get past the band of sociopaths who are currently running our government, we’re going to get past their reprehensible and un-American anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican prejudices, and we’re going to become a moral and exceptional country again.

So, if you’re an American: someday your kids and your grand-kids are going to have questions.  We’re not French, and we do ask about family.  Your grand-kids are going to want to know what Grandma and Grandpa did during the Trump administration.  Did you speak up?  Did you collaborate?  Did you just try to get along and let the refugees, the religious and racial minorities, and the people losing their health insurance worry about themselves?  We’re not French–we do ask.  Your grand-kids will.  They’ll ask you.  

English notes

to be in a world of shit: to be in a very bad situation.  There are a number of shit-related expressions for describing the state of being in a bad situation–to be in deep shit, to be up shit creek without a paddle, and I imagine others that slip my mind at the moment.  How it was used in the post: America is in a world of shit right now.  

French notes

la Résistance intérieure: the Resistance within France.  What we would call in English “the Resistance.”

la Résistance extérieure: the Free French forces operating out of London.

clandestin: clandestine, underground, secret.

la presse clandestine: the underground press.  Putting out newspapers was a big move during the Nazi occupation–Germany took the press so seriously that in Germany the Nazi government killed intellectuals and writers who published underground anti-government writings.  It was a difficult one, too–it was illegal to sell paper, ink, or stencils.

Ad hominem

The older you get, the more you realize that your parents knew what they were talking about.  I’ve spent an entire education ignoring the existence of rhetoric, and specifically, “rhetoric” as in this definition from Merriam-Webster:

:  the art of speaking or writing effectively: such as

   a :  the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times

I mean, I knew that there were all of these fancy names for rhetorical moves–but, who could be bothered to memorize them, and why bother?  Then I started studying for the C1 DALF exam, and realized that understanding discourse markers could be damn useful.  From there, it’s a short step to thinking in a more principled way about how to put an argument together, and from there…well, rhetoric and its “rhetorical figures” are just right around the corner.

There’s a point to studying rhetoric.  You can see it in Wikipedia’s definition of the term:

Rhetoric is the art of discourse, wherein a writer or speaker strives to inform, persuade or motivate particular audiences in specific situations.

'Don't worry too much about math, science, or history -- just make sure you get good marks in rhetoric.'
Picture source:

The key words: inform, persuade or motivate.  At this, Trump is, unfortunately, a master: he persuades the hell out of people.  (We’ll get back to which people in a bit.)  Did he soak up a bunch of rhetoric courses at whatever college he did his draft-dodging in?  I don’t know–but, you can see lots of fancy–and some not-so-fancy–rhetorical techniques in his communication.  For example: the ad hominem argument.  As Wikipedia defines it:

Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.[2]Wikipedia

For example:

Does Trump respond to the content of what Sen. McCain said?  No–not at all.  What he does: he attacks the person who communicated the content.

Does this work?  Well: he’s the president of the United States of America.  Did he get the most votes?  No–but, he’s still the president.

A different question: on who does this kind of crap argument work?  And it is a crap argument: an example of a fallacy.  You could argue that it works on people who are too stupid to catch the move.  In this particular case, I’m guessing that you would be correct.  Back to the definition of rhetoric again: discourse that is used to inform, persuade or motivate particular audiences in specific situations.  You could take the position that the “particular audience” at whom he aims this crap is mostly made up of people who either (a) don’t begin to understand the implications of what the guy is pushing, or (b) do, but are deluded enough to think that burning the world down would be a cool way to start over.  You could take the position that the “specific situation” is a shared delusion, a sort of mass hysteria.  But, that clearly isn’t the only time when ad hominem arguments get taken seriously: there is a version of this that is common on the left, as well.  (Just to be clear: I am on the left.)  In that version, you don’t even bother to claim that the content is flawed because the person is flawed: you argue that the content shouldn’t be listened to, because the person is flawed–irrespective of whether or not it’s relevant in any way, shape, or form, to anything about the person whatsoever.  Again, to be clear: just because people on my side of the aisle do it doesn’t make it right.  Doesn’t make it valid.  Doesn’t make Trump any less of an asshole, and doesn’t make the majority of the people who voted for him any less deluded.

I’ll close with an observation about France versus the US: as far as I can tell, ad hominem arguments work a hell of a lot less well in France than they do in my country of origin.  Is it because the French are (as far as I can tell) generally less into emotion and more into logic than Americans are, and vice versa?  Is it because French students are required to take philosophy in college, and we’re not?  I don’t know.  I do know that in France, your art will not be boycotted if you happen to be, say, a recidivist thief (Jean Genet), a rapist (Roman Polanski), or a horribly vicious Nazi collaborator (Louis-Ferdinand Céline).  (This isn’t an absolute.  On the 50th anniversary of his death, Céline was to be included in the list of people included in the Célébrations nationales.  Mitterand nixed his inclusion.  As Le Figaro put it: Une vive polémique s’est ensuivie.)  In contrast: in America, if you’re an asshole, your art will, in fact, probably be boycotted.  The point of all this: as far as I can tell, the French are not nearly as susceptible to the ad hominem argument as the Americans.  Yes, I’m generalizing, and no, nobody fits their stereotypes, and no, I am an expert neither on America, nor on France.  Nonetheless…  You can certainly give counter-examples, and plenty of them–but, as a general rule, this holds.

French notes

la rhétorique: rhetoric.



Linguists: boring? Incomprehensible? Evil?

Common wisdom—an oxymoron if ever there was one—has it that linguistics and linguists themselves have a bit of a reputation problem. Are linguists boring? Incomprehensible? Pointless? Evil?  The contention of this paper is—given that perception is nine-tenths of reality—unless we ask, we’ll never know.  — The Speculative Grammarian


Picture source:

Follow this link to read the source of the preceding quote.  Bonus points for understanding the mean-of-means joke.  Even more bonus points for explaining it in the Comments.

How linguistics got her groove back


My old nemesis

In which a cook thinks I’m an idiot because of some vowels.

French and English have pretty different sets of vowels.  (Vowel inventories is the technical term in linguistics.)  One of the basic facts of humans and languages is that we can be unable to hear differences between sounds that we don’t have in our native tongue, and each of the two languages has lots of vowels that the other doesn’t have.  When I say that we can’t hear differences between sounds, that implies that there are sounds with which we confuse them, and which sounds those are is not random at all: people categorize the sounds of their language in pretty structured, principled ways, and when they fail to distinguish the sounds in other languages, that “failure to distinguish” manifests itself as (se traduit par, I think, in French) putting sounds from the other guy’s language into the same category as some sound in your language.

Two-tube models of the vowels [i], [u], and [a]. The third author of the paper from which I took this figure once left a note on my desk that had the effect of getting my office mates off my fucking back about the messiness of said desk for the remainder of my post-graduate education, but that’s a story for another time. Picture source:
The principles by which this kind of thing gets structured can be described in terms of the articulatory characteristics of the sounds (what you do with your mouth parts to make them), the acoustic characteristics of the sounds (what the waveform would look like if you graphed it), and the auditory perception system (how your brain and your peripheral nervous system interpret incoming sounds).  I mention this not because I think that you’ll be fascinated by the details of the effects of, say, Helmholtz resonators versus two-tube models (see the picture) of vowels, but so that you know that there’s a reason that you (if you’re a native speaker of English), me, and all of our fellow “Anglo-Saxons” (a term which seems to be falling out of use in France today, but which I still find amusing, since if there’s anything that I’m not, it’s an Anglo-Saxon) are confusing the same vowels.

For English speakers (Americans, anyway–I don’t know very many of our friends from the Commonwealth and wouldn’t presume to speak for them), one problem pair in French is the vowels that are spelt ou and u.  Technically, those are both what are called high tense rounded vowels (here’s a post with a link to a nice video about them from the Comme une française YouTube series).  In English, we only have the vowel that’s written ou, which is more or less the same vowel that we have in the words who’d and boot.  We tend to hear French words with the vowel spelt as the vowel spelt ou.  Both of them are super-common in French; here are some examples, from the amazing site (is the International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for the French vowel spelt u):

Words that differ only in having the French sound spelt u versus the French sound spelt ou. Picture source: screen shot from

Most of the time, even us Anglo-Saxons (see the disclaimer above) can get by on context: there just aren’t that many times when the situation doesn’t let you figure out whether your waiter is asking you about joue (cheek) versus jus (juice), or when the rest of the sentence won’t give you a pretty good guess as to whether your interlocutor just said coup (a blow, roughly) or (the letter of the alphabet).

However: there’s one French “minimal pair”–set of two words that only differ by a single sound–that can pretty much always show up in the same context.  To wit: au dessus and au dessous.  What those mean: roughly, over and under.  The only difference in the sounds of those is the ou (which we have in English) of under, and the of over.  Have you seen my cigarettes?  Yeah, they’re (on top of/underneath) your sweater.  Would you do me a favor and put this (on/under) that box?  It happens all the time.

Still life with buckwheat: two foil-wrapped gallettes, one on top of the other. Picture source: me, right before dinner.

To wit: I was feeling badly in need of an actual meal the other day, but too tired to cook after work.  Not a problem, as there’s a little Breton place right across the street from the metro station that’s popular for take-out.  I popped in on my way home and ordered a couple gallettes de sarazin–a buckwheat crêpe–one a complet (“with everything”), and one with zucchini and cheese.  The nice lady brought them out to me in the bag that you see in the picture, and explained: The complet is on the (top/bottom), and the gratinée is on the (top/bottom).  

Fuck: my old nemesis, au-dessus and au-dessous.  I gave her a baffled look.  She gave me a baffled look right back: what could I possibly not be understanding??  We’d just had an involved conversation on the topic of why I should really be topping off my dinner with her home-made apple crumble (her position on the topic) and why my general fatness suggested that I should not, in fact, be doing so (my position), so why would I suddenly be confused by something that any French toddler would understand?  She looked at me for a bit, with that look on her face that means Is this bizarre foreigner jerking me around, or what?, and then finally tried again: en haut–gratinée.  En bas–complet.  No verbs, no pronouns, none of that fancy stuff–two prepositions, two nouns.

Message received.  I left a good tip in hopes of maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the relationship, ’cause I am, in fact, de souche Bretonne (half, anyway), and I do love my cider and chicken gizzards, and that restaurant is the best place in the neighborhood to get them.  It’s not like there aren’t other good Breton restaurants in Paris, but this one’s mine, damn it.

A brief moment of produce-induced swooning

Quine wasn’t kidding: Gavagai really is a thing, and you don’t have to go any further than the grocery store to experience it.

Winters in Paris are nothing to write home to mom about, but they’re nothing to complain about, either.  (To be nothing to write home to mom about explained in the English notes below.)  If you can get past the crushing darkness, which descends on you at the relatively civilized hour of 5 PM but doesn’t lift until a quarter past 8 in the morning, the weather is relatively mild.  Your mileage may vary depending on the strength of your heater, but overall, the winter weather here isn’t really that bad.

One of the beauties of life here is the produce in the markets.  The stuff in the supermarkets is as crappy as the produce in the supermarkets in the US, but if you go to your neighborhood market, the situation changes totally.  In my neighborhood, the market takes place Sunday and Wednesday mornings.  The produce, eggs, meat, and dairy products are pretty local.  In the US, the situation is quite different, for very specific reasons.  Most food gets shipped long distances, and that has consequences for produce in particular.  The plus side of the American supermarket is that you can buy any fruit or vegetable whatsoever 365 days a year.  The downside is that to make those fruits and vegetables available year-round, they have to be shipped from distant climes, which means that they cannot be ripe, or they’ll bruise in transit.  So: you can have any fruit or vegetable you want, but it will always be unripe and tasteless.  That’s pretty much the situation in French supermarkets, too, at least in Paris.  (I have no clue what goes on elsewhere.  I avoid leaving Paris as much as possible, due to the whole lapins anthropophages issue in the countryside.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.)

The supply chain for Parisian markets is pretty local, which means that you don’t have the constraint against ripe produce–you don’t have to worry about everything getting ruined in transit because it doesn’t get shipped very far.  That means that in the summer you can buy pretty much anything, but in the winter it’s mostly apples and potatoes, and you can tell how long they’ve been sitting in someone’s cellar.  (I exaggerate here, but just a bit.  I did say mostly.)  The payback: in the summer, the produce is incredible.  If you have never walked by a crate of strawberries that were so ripe you could smell them: it’s amazing.  If you have never had a merchant ask you when you were going to eat your produce, and then pick it out for you so that it would last exactly as long as you needed it to before being overripe: it’s quite the service.

So: it’s Sunday, which means my market day, which means my weekly dose of vegetables.  (I try to keep my vegetable consumption down to the minimum required for life.  Where there are vegetables, there are des lapins anthropophages, and…well, like I said: you’ve been warned.)  My marchand préféré (I suggest that you pick yours based on the length of their line–longer lines are better, and they get extra points for higher ratios of old ladies) had some cherry tomatoes, and they were lookin’ good.  Price: 2.95 a barquette.  

Seulement voilà (the problem is): what’s a barquette?  If it’s a container, I’m in good shape.  If, on the other hand, it’s a vine with attached little red things, then since there are several of those in one of those containers, we’re talking about more money than I’m willing to pay to run the risk of attracting the unwanted attention of the aforementioned lapins.  (Some of you will recognize this as the classic Gavagai problem.  In the language of Molière, you can also spell it Gavagaï.)

Solution: ask for just one barquette, and see what the guy hands me.  That done, I took my purchases home.  Once out of my shopping bag (you must carry a shopping bag–disposable plastic grocery bags are illegal here now), I set my barquette of cherry tomatoes on the table and took a whiff.  Boom: right back to my childhood.  A warm summer day, tomatoes warm in the sun.  You get that kind of “sense memory” in an American grocery store exactly never.  You get soft towels here in Paris exactly never, but oh, the produce…

You’ll find notes on the English and French vocabulary used in this post below.  For more on the role of cherry tomatoes in Parisian life, check out Olivier Magny’s book Stuff Parisians like, which turns out to be accurate far more often than I ever would have thought it would be.

French notes

la barquette: small basket (of fruit or little vegetables), tub (of ice cream or margarine)

English notes

produce (noun): agricultural products and especially fresh fruits and vegetables as distinguished from grain and other staple crops (from Merriam-Webster).  Note: this is a noun, and is pronounced with stress on the first syllable, not on the last syllable (as is the case with the verb).  How it was used in the post: One of the beauties of life here is the produce in the markets. 

to not be anything to write home to mother about: to not be particularly special (in the American sense of the word special, not the French sense).

How it was used in the post: Winters in Paris are nothing to write home to mom about, but they’re nothing to complain about, either.

Zipf’s Law English: reduction

Spoken American English can be very difficult to understand. Here’s a video to help you cope with one of the problems therewith.

Walking out of the exam on oral comprehension during the testing for the Diplôme approfondi de langue française a couple months ago, I found a very unhappy-looking young man waiting for the elevator.  Are you OK?  He shook his head glumly: I flunked again, I know it.  I made sympathetic noises.  Was this your first time taking the test?  I responded in the affirmative.  He gave me a look of pity–clearly the expectation was that I was going to find the experience as brutal as he had.  Repeatedly, apparently.

Indeed, the oral comprehension exam got me my worst score out of the whole test.  Spoken French and spoken English can both be brutally difficult to understand if they’re not your native language, and for many of the same reasons.  One of those is their sets of vowels–both languages have vowel “inventories” (the technical term) that are shared by relatively few languages.  Another is a process called reduction, which leads to things having a range of ways that they could be pronounced, some of which are less distinct than others.  For example, in French, some unstressed vowels are optional in casual spoken language, so that cheveux is often pronounced chveux, matelot can be pronounced matlot, and so on.  Furthermore, the sounds that are “left behind” can be changed as a result, so that, for example, the in je becomes pronounced as ch when je suis is “reduced” to chuis.  So, when I describe this as becoming “less distinct,” think about this.  In French, there are these two words, and the difference between them is the sound of versus the sound of ch:

  • le jar: secret language, argot
  • le char: chariot; in Canada, car.

When becomes ch, as in chuis, the difference between the two sounds goes away, and in that sense, a “reduced” word is less distinct from other words than it might have been.

Reduction processes are rampant in spoken American English, and they can make the language pretty difficult to understand if you’re not a native speaker.  I’m trying my hand at putting some videos together that aim to help people learn to understand these reductions.  You can find the first one, on the topic of the reduction of let me to lemme, at the link below.  If you’re as mystified by spoken American English as I am by spoken French, check it out–I’d love to have feedback on what does and doesn’t work, whether that be here on this blog, or in the Comments section on YouTube.  Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out the whole subtitle thing, and I’d like to know to what extent that does or doesn’t interfere with the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the video.  Any input at all would be appreciated, though!